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Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

Transmission electron microscopic image of an isolate from the first U.S. case of COVID-19, formerly known as 2019-nCoV. The spherical viral particles, colorized blue, contain cross-sections through the viral genome, seen as black dots.

Photo: Hannah A Bullock; Azaibi Tamin

There are increasing reports in the news media about the coronavirus and its spread. While it is important to stay informed, there is no reason to panic. To put it in perspective, current data suggests that the mortality rate for those infected with coronavirus is about 2%, while for the current influenza season, the percentage of deaths related to influenza and pneumonia is 6.8% (data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). The threshold for calling infections an epidemic is 7.3%.

As of February 25, 2020, in the United States 416 people have been tested for coronavirus and there are 14 confirmed cases — 12 from travel and two from person-to-person spread, but no reported deaths. On average, there are between 30,000 and 50,000 deaths each year in the United States that are attributable to influenza.

“If you have symptoms and believe you are at risk of coronavirus infection, call your doctor before going in. The determination will then be made as to the best course of action. Home treatment is appropriate for some people, but not for others.”

A few things to know:

The virus is spread by respiratory droplets. This means that coughing and sneezing spread the illness. Handwashing and covering one’s mouth when coughing and sneezing helps prevent transmission.

Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use alcohol-based hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol content.

The virus presents with fever, cough and shortness of breath. The current belief is that people with these symptoms and who travel or have had known contact with recent travelers are at risk.

If you have symptoms and believe you are at risk of coronavirus infection, call your doctor before going in. The determination will then be made as to the best course of action. Home treatment is appropriate for some people, but not for others.

There is no known medication for treatment at this time. The recommended treatment is supportive care.

If you would like to read in more detail, the Centers for Disease Control has a trove of information, which can be found here.

COVID-19 Fact Sheets from the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

What you need to know about coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) Download PDF

What to do if you are sick with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) Download PDF

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